13 Words of Wisdom from Milton Glaser—Part 2

There's so much to learn from "To Inform & Delight: The Work of Milton Glaser" that I broke it down into two posts. Here are 13 more words of wisdom from Glaser:

1. Glaser liked the idea of the title for his book to be "Drawing is Thinking."

2. The truth is , I've been looking for a definition for what art is all my life without fully understanding exactly what it encompasses. But in the course of doing a speech, I looked up several references to what art was and I found one by Horace, who was a critic and poet back in Roman times and he had this great line, "The purpose of art is to inform and delight," and I thought, wow, it can't get much better than that.

3. Ernst H. Gombrich said, "There is no art, only artists." What he meant is that what art is becomes defined generationally; everybody redefines what art is because there's no there there. It is what society determines at any moment in history and the great enemy of art is the institutionalization of belief, like style or like taste. Once that crystallization of belief happens—OK, I got it now!—that becomes a limitation.

4. What I've always hated in my life is the parochialization of art, making it a special activity unrelated to other activities. It finally ends up being an instrument for social enhancement and not what it really is which is an expression of a fundamental instinct of the species.

5. Artists basically create the commonalities, the symbolism, so people feel as though they have some relationship to one another. When people don't feel they have that relationship, they kill each other. That role of providing common ground is absolutely essential to civilization.

6. Withholding, not giving everything, is one of the secrets of design.

7. Stephen Heller, all-around graphics guru, re: Glaser's approach: it's not about design as service, it's about design as cultural value.

8. [When you teach], you teach a way of perceiving the world.

9. No matter what your work, that complete commitment is transformative; it makes you different when you completely commit to what you're doing.

10. I realized [after visiting Italy] that history wasn't the enemy, that you can use anything as raw material to make something. That was a great transformation for me.

11. Be on the side of the light.

Milton Glaser photo by Sam Haskins.

12. Glaser promotes a humanistic philosophy.

13. In NYC, you have these extraordinary strands of differences existing simultaneously and in some curious way, advantageously, towards all of the people who live here. There really is nothing like it. NYC does the job that America's supposed to do. It really takes everybody and, not only accepts them, responds to them. The city is enormously accommodating.

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